How Gamers can be a Force of Good for the Environment

climate change e3 gaming sustainability

With E3 2019 recently concluded, gamers have a lot of reasons to get hyped 'til E3 2020. However, for most species on the planet other than humans, the next year might be a long ways away. Seems like every year, another life form gets listed down as "threatened" or worse, "extinct". In fact, we're quickly heading to the critical "point of no return" where extreme climate change will make the world unliveable.

That's a sense of urgency that cannot be denied--this mission must be accomplished at all cost, a situation that gamers are very familiar with. That's why the United Nations believe that gamers can and will do a lot for the environment.

The gaming industry is on such a massive scale in terms of immersion and influence. It bounds people, young and old alike, from any part of the world, in one passion.

"What is truly remarkable is this industry’s potential to influence the behaviour of young people on a global scale." - UN Environment

To explore this, UN Environment has been working with the gaming industry, as well as with the International Olympic Committee and the World Scouts Movement, to determine how young people can act to protect the environment.

Playing for the Planet

Released in March, a new UN Environment study titled “Playing for the Planet” looks at how the gaming sector can influence the behaviour of young people to act in support of the environment.

The study found that 87% of the 50 leading gaming companies demonstrate a deep commitment to making a change and are willing to support further action on this issue.

With a viewership of 3 billion hours per week, the gaming industry has the unprecedented ability to capture the attention of a vast number of people. Seeing that many young people today are concerned about the issue of climate change, and because one in five gamers are under the age of 21, UN Environment argues that there is indeed a demand for environmental and nature-related content.

How Gamers Can Save the World

So, how can the fastest growing media platform in the world be harnessed to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals and the urgent global needs they represent? UN and GRID-Arendal Exposure imparts their initiative summarizing recent relevant developments in the video games sector, perspectives from over 50 thought leaders from the industry, and seven recommendations to provoke new thinking, new collaborations, new games, and real-world impact.

This assessment presents a vision of how the video game industry, gamers, parents, policymakers and UN Environment can together ‘Play for the Planet’.

At the “Playing for the Planet” panel discussion held during the Fourth UN Environment Assembly in March 2019, important ideas and insights were discussed around the topic of gaming and youth:

  1. Agents of change: youth must be directly involved in message delivery rather than simply act as receivers because empowering young people to be agents of change is likely to lead to longer-lasting behaviour change.
  2. Fostering a relationship with nature: although video games can serve as a channel through which important environmental and social messages can be communicated, it is important not to forget about the importance of physically being in nature. “We need to get people on screens into the green and the green onto screens,” said panelist Inger Andersen.
  3. Influencing behaviour: measuring outcomes and impact is a priority. There should be a way to measure whether, for example, “green nudges” in games actually impact real-world behaviour.

Playing for the Planet: How Video Games Can Deliver for People and The Environment from GRID-Arendal on Vimeo.

Video games – if seen and approached as serious and transformative tools – could empower billions to contribute to urgently needed solutions. Like Al Gibb, CEO of Mighty Serious mentioned:

"Gaming’s ability to mobilize GEN Y and younger is very powerful if executed purposefully."

While the notion of using video games as a means of engagement may seem controversial given that excessive screen time can distance people from nature and healthy activities. Nonetheless, the most effective way to engage youth in solutions will be to embrace the spaces and platforms they use, on their own terms. With gaming poised to be the dominant and most far-reaching media for the emerging generation, its impact and potential can no longer be ignored – it’s a platform with unrivalled potential.


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